Archive for October, 2011

Saying “No” to NaNoWriMo

October 23, 2011

Thousands upon thousands of writers are gearing up for National Novel Writing Month where the goal is to produce at least 50,000 words of a first draft.  It’s described as Thirty days and nights of literary abandon. I won’t be joining them.  And it’s not just because I’m in the middle of finishing the latest round of revisions to Calyn’s story for my agent.  I tried NaNoWriMo about five years ago.  I managed to produce 11,000 words before I stopped trying to get through what was turning into the thorny hedge of my story. Then it took me a couple of months to first untangle and then relink all those words.  In the end, I would have come out ahead by proceeding at my normal, plodding pace.  I do believe in the power of writing with literary abandon.  Donna Jo Napoli shared some insights on that at a recent conference on Mackinac Island.

I believe in the power of the amorphous blob that she talked about, but I can only stay in that zone for three or four hours.  Then I have to sort things out and smooth them together so that I know exactly what happened to my characters before I move on. Even though NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for me, I know that it has worked for thousands upon thousands of writers.  I’ll be wishing them well as they come up to the starting line with their outlines and character sketches.  On your marks. Get set.  Write!



October 14, 2011

A friend of mine, a writer who managed to make me laugh AND get teary eyed at the same moment,  has started group-blogging as Swagger. This bunch of writers came together at a Highlights Foundation retreat and really bonded. Collectively, they’re an interesting bunch. Rich Wallace, for example, has written lot of great middle grade and YA novels. (On a personal level, he edited the first short story that I sold to HIGHLIGHTS.)

I plan to watch these people get their swagger on.

Finding Metaphors

October 11, 2011

At some point, the SCBWI Bulletin will publish my poem, WORD WRANGLING, which has the opening line of “Never force a metaphor.”  While I fully support that recommendation, I would argue that you can play with metaphors and maybe even have them over for dinner.  An extremely useful metaphor dropped into my lap after a trip to Yellowstone that ought to help me explain the magic in Calyn’s story in a way that’s much more visual and concrete. Geysers, prismatic springs, paint pots, mud volcanos and the wider caldera gave me a good way to explain something that I’ve known about this world all along.

Some thoughts on writing from Donna Jo Napoli

October 4, 2011

I’ve been collecting quotes from writers and editors for the past 18 years or so.   In fact, I just delivered a talk at the Michigan SCBWI’s fall conference on Mackinac Island that shared the quotes that I’ve been collecting for the past 18 years.  I had about two pages worth of them from various events in Nebraska, Missouri, France, Arkansas and Michigan.  Each of them has become a part of my writer’s toolbox.  Within a few hours, I had several more from noted author Donna Jo Napoli.  She was one of our headliners.

On first drafts:

“The amorphous blob–that’s the emotion. That’s the blood. Your readers is bloodthirsty.”

On switching from the writer’s hat to the self-editing.

Writers are psychopaths.
Writers are a mess.

Editors are neat.
Editors are tidy.

On carving out time to write:

My kitchen floor was so clean you could eat off of it…for a month!